THE number of work-related deaths, which in 2007 jumped by almost a third to 67, is among the highest in the European Union, warned the Health and Safety Authority.
The number of days lost to work-related injury and illness has been increasing steadily since 2003 and illness, rather than injury, causes more days’ absence from work.
The death rate compares to 51 in 2006 and 74 in 2005, among the state’s 2.1 million workers.
The figures show that most of the rise in fatalities occurred in the fishing and construction sectors.
The number of farming fatalities was 11 in 2007 compared to 18 in both 2006 and 2005. The agriculture sector still has the highest fatality rate at 8.3 deaths per 100,000 workers.
HSA chief executive Martin O’Halloran said more needs to be done to reduce accidents in all sectors. “We firmly believe that accidents at work are preventable in the majority of cases,” he explained.
About 14% of the accidents reported to the HSA involved non-Irish national workers.
A total of 13,631 workplace inspections were carried out in 2007 and enforcement action was necessary in 12% of those cases.
Manual handling incidents and slipping, tripping and falling accounted for more than 50% of all reported accidents in 2007.
The most recent data available shows that Ireland has the second lowest non-fatal injury rate in the EU but a higher than average fatality rate.
The figures were contained in the HSA’s Annual Report and Summary of Workplace Injury, Illness and Fatality Statistics 2006/07.
The statistics show an increase in levels of occupational illness over the last number of years.
Mr O’Halloran said: “This is an area we will be targeting further and it is important employers and employees don’t focus solely on occupational injuries. Illness as a result of work activity is just as serious as having a physical injury.”
Launching the report, Labour Affairs Minister Billy Kelleher said it was vital that health and safety is at the top of the agenda in all workplaces.
“It has clearly been shown that investments in worker health and safety will save money in the long term. Not only is there a legal and ethical duty to protect workers, the financial case is also strong.”
HSA chairman Jim Lyons said: “There have been significant improvements in some industry sectors but nobody can become complacent. With 67 lives lost in workplace accidents last year and 31 worker deaths so far this year there is still much work to be done.”
Accidents at work
Other figures from the reports:
* 70% of employers have a safety statement as required under the 2005 Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act.
* 31 prosecutions were concluded in 2007 with a 97% conviction rate. Fines totalling €784,372 were imposed.
* 7,800 non-fatal accidents reported to the authority last year, down from 8,000 in 2006.
* Male workers continue to experience higher rates of injury and illness than females.
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